The ulnar nerve is one of the nerves of the arm. It spreads from the neck into the hand and can become constricted along the way. The most common place for compression of the nerve is the inside part of the elbow. Cubital tunnel syndrome causes numbness and tingling sensation in the hands and fingers. The ulnar nerve can become trapped, pinched or caused by overuse, direct trauma and anatomic variations.
Causes of ulnar nerve compression in the elbow
- When bending the elbow, the ulnar nerve is stretched around the bony ridge of the medial epicondyle. This stretching causes irritation of the nerve.
- Keeping the elbow bent for long periods of times or repeatedly bending the elbow causes severe symptoms such as sleeping with the elbows bent makes the fingers numb upon waking up in the morning.
- Sometimes, the nerve slides out behind the medial epicondyle when bending the elbow, eventually the sliding back and forth causes irritation of the nerve.
- Leaning on the elbow for long periods of time puts pressure on the nerve.
- Accumulation of fluids in the elbow can result to swelling and compress the nerves.
- A direct blow to the inside of the elbow causes pain, numbness and electric shock sensation that can be felt in the little and ring fingers
- Numbness and tingling sensation in the ring and little finger which just comes and goes. This usually happen when bending the elbow such as holding the phone or driving. Sometimes, the fingers become numb at night.
- The little finger and the ring finger feels like “falling asleep” when the elbow is bent and sometimes it becomes hard for the fingers to manipulate objects.
- The grip becomes weak and there is difficulty with finger coordination such as typing or playing instruments that can happen due to severe compression of the nerve.
- A severely compressed nerve can result to muscle wasting in the hand which requires immediate medical care.
- Avoid repetitive use of muscles, joints and tendons to prevent making the condition worse. Eliminate activities that place pressure on the nerve such as repetitive flexion or bending and extension or straigthening.
- Get plenty of sleep for fast healing of the condition.
- Avoid sleeping with bent elbows to prevent compression of the nerve in the area.
- Avoid activities such as repetitive flexion, extension and squeezing movements to prevent making the condition worse.
- Wear the prescribed padded elbow brace or splint during night time to prevent unnecessary movements and keep the elbow straight.
- Apply an ice pack on the affected area for at least 15 minutes at 3-4 times every day to lessen the inflammation. Avoid applying the ice pack directly on the skin. Make sure that the ice pack is wrap with a towel before placing on the affected area to prevent frostbite and making the condition worse.
- Apply heat on the affected area after icing. Use a hot water bottle or heating pad to increase the blood flow in the area and for fast healing of the affected area.